Tokyo: Center Gai and love hotel hill in Shibuya

The birthplace of many Japanese fashion trends, Center Gai is a busy pedestrian zone in the heart of Shibuya lined by stores, boutiques and game centers.

In the evenings the street is crowded with young people heading to night clubs, restaurants and bars, or just loitering around. We just walked through it on a Saturday afternoon and it was already very crowded.

There are lots of Pachinko parlours in the Center Gai, but we did not go inside. Pachinko is one of Tokyo’s most popular forms of recreation and similar to pinball, but without the flippers and requiring little skill. Players buy some steel balls to feed into the pachinko machine, winning more steel balls; these are traded in for a prize (gambling for money is illegal in Japan).

We walked towards the love hotel hill – and the name is a give-away. This area of Shibuya has a high concentration of love hotels, which offer couples a private room for a 2 to 3 hour “rest” during the day (usually around 5,000 yen) or an overnight “stay” (usually around 10,000 yen).

As the name suggests, the main purpose of love hotels is to provide couples with a room to spend some undisturbed time together. Love hotels are found all over Japan and they can usually be recognized because of their strange looks. They often follow a theme and have very cheesy names.

The reception at a love hotel is very anonymous. The guests usually choose a room on a board by pressing a button and then pay at a little window where the receptionist behind cannot be seen. At least, that’s what my guidebook said.


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